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Our trip started on August 18th from Ottawa; we had booked First Class seats on United via Washington using points thus we had the use of United's International First Class lounges. The aircraft was a new Boeing 777 with first class "suites" with fully reclining seats that stretch 6'4". Service was excellent; lovely gourmet meals, Personal TVs, Pillows, quilt and amenities kit. Arrived in Rome early on Sunday morning, Aug. 19th; we had pre-booked a limo service and the driver was waiting for us at the airport (transfer from airport to hotel; hotel to Port and return to hotel was 255 Euros). We stayed at the Jolly Vittorio Veneto for 4 nights pre-cruise. This hotel is a little tired but has a few rooms with private terraces and we had requested this when we booked. The terrace was amazing - 14'x 20' with a patio table and chairs; it faced Villa Borghese and was a wonderful place to sit, drink and relax. Prior to going to Rome we pre-booked tickets for the Colosseum, reserved a time-slot at Galleria Borghese and bought tickets for a guided tour of the Vatican. All of these worked out fabulously. After checking in, we walked to Trevi Fountain, although relatively crowded we had no problems getting right next to the Fountain to take pictures, throw in our coins and just sit and admire it. The crowd actually made it easy to find someone to take pictures of us. After having a beer close by we walked to Piazza Minerva to see Bernini's elephant sculpture with it's smile and from the back the elephant's muscles are tensed and it's tail is swung to the left. It was sculptured as it if were defecating; with the rear pointed at the office of Father Domenica Paglia who was one of Bernini's main antagonists. We then strolled to the Pantheon, Rome's best preserved temple built in 125 AD. Then onto Piazzo Navona a site previously used for chariot racing. Unfortunately, the 4 giants representing the world's greatest rivers was being repaired. We still saw parts of it through open panels. We carried water bottles and the refilled them along the way at fountains which you will find throughout Rome. The prices in Rome for eating and drinking were much higher than we expected, e.g. 8 Euros for a beer near Trevi Fountain and the Vatican. Hotel prices are very high; we paid 200 Euros per night which included a nice buffet breakfast and VAT. Taxis were reasonable but you need to find the taxi stands as you cannot flag them down. Day 2 we went to the Colosseum and by-passed all the line-ups; we easily found the ticket window for individuals with vouchers and headed into the Colosseum. We read quite a bit about the Colosseum before the trip so we could really appreciate the design and workmanship plus we bought a great book at the hotel which had pictures of the sites now and overlays to show what it was like originally. (Bought the same type of book for Pompeii). After a few hours at the Colosseum we walked through the Roman Forum and then sat near the sites and enjoyed a cold drink to rest and absorb the culture and beauty of it all. Day 3 we walked to Galleria Borghese (10 minutes from our hotel); we bought our tickets and then went to the tour desk and paid 5 Euros each for a guided tour. You cannot take anything into the Galleria, e.g. cameras, backpacks, etc, these items must be checked. The tour was fabulous; sculptures by Bernini including his David, Apollo and Daphne and the Rape of Prosperina. Guide provided background info and details. Visitors admitted for two hours only. We were allowed into the private gardens which are not normally open to the public. Galleria Borghese is a must see. After a short rest back on our terrace, we headed to the Spanish Steps. There is a tunnel with escalators at the top of Via Veneto which goes to the Spanish Steps and is easy to navigate. Day 4 we took a taxi to the Vatican and met our guide. Pre-booking this was a great decision. Tour was excellent, started at 8:30, general public was not allowed into the Museums until 10:00 (line-up already long at 8:00). Tour lasted 3 hours and we were shown the highlights, given the background and little known details, e.g. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel with both hands at the same time, darker colors with his right and lighter colors with his left. He left his fingerprints as his signature on the eyes of an angel. Over and over again our guide provided interesting insight into what we were seeing, e.g. Mosiac of fish, fruit, wheat and meat was an ancient menu although it looked like a painting it was actually tiny pieces of different colored marble (white - Italy, Green - Greece, Red - Spain and Yellows from Asia Minor). My DH and myself were able to appreciate the Museums, Sistine Chapel and Vatican much more than when we went on our own the first time (15 years ago). After the tour we walked along the Tiber River, crossed over the pedestrian bridge and went to the famous Caffe Greco and then enjoyed the best gelato we've ever had which we bought at a bar directly across from the Spanish Steps. Day 5 we enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast at the hotel and packed. Our driver arrived on time at 10:30 and we headed for the Port. The trip took about an hour and a half. Embarking was easy and we were onboard the Legend by 12:00. The Legend is in good shape, very clean, staff are friendly and helpful. We enjoyed a quick lunch in the Windjammer (which unfortunately does not have the outside seating we enjoy on the Radiance class) it was 1:00 and our Cabin was ready. The cabin (Junior Suite 8084) was lovely; large sitting area with a sofa and two chairs plus glass coffee table; the entrance area has a wood floor and a cabinet where the ice bucket/tray were kept. The bathroom has a tub/shower. Tons of storage in this cabin. The balcony was huge with two lounge chairs, two regular chairs and a nice size table (not really high enough for dining but better than the really low tables). The cabin had recently undergone refurbishing and had new upholstery, carpet and drapes; the bedding and bed were also new. The only drawback to the cabin was the issue with soot on the balcony; you had to be careful to wipe down the chairs which were navy blue so hard to see the soot but it was apparent on the table. Because of the soot we always had to put a pair of crocs or something on our feet before going outside. Too bad because the balcony is an awesome size. A message was on our telephone indicating that our Meet and Mingle would be held at 5:30 which caused confusion because the official time shown on the website was for the following day as a result a lot of people missed this gathering. Our little group had just a short time to say hello before we had to leave for early sitting but it was nice to put the faces to the names. Due to the mix-up a second M&M was arranged later in the cruise; it was not the best mainly because the two reps didn't seem to understand the concept of a M&M; one talked almost the whole time and the other gave us each a key chain, took our raffle tickets and never held a raffle. I spoke to her nicely about it the next day and she rather abruptly said "I gave you all a key chain"; so that was that. The dining room is very nice and the music was lovely. We had a large table with three other couples; wonderful conversations; an terrific assistant waiter and Maitre'd and a so-so waiter. The food however was just OK, not as good as other RCI cruises. This was most notably with the beef which was not very tender. Salads and desserts were great. Crayfish was the substitute for lobster. Perhaps because it was a Med. cruise we were expecting more of the flavors of Italy and Greece and instead the menu followed the normal course expect for some side items in the Windjammer. There are no specialty restaurants on the Legend. We love the style of the theatre and went to some of the shows which were average; we did see a couple of movies in the theatre which we enjoyed. One of the best things during sea days was a guest lecturer who provided wonderful insight to the various ruins we would be visiting. We skipped the Art Auctions and other activities. The casino was lovely; very spacious and wonderful staff. For the first time we saw a Solarium pool with the roof retracted; it moves over the mini-putt so you can't play when it is open. We didn't use the pools but saw there were plenty of chairs available and a pretty active Deck Patrol team at work. The first day at sea we passed through the Straits of Messina; it was a beautiful day and seas were calm. Captain Carl Graucob was excellent in providing advance notice of the times we would be passing key locations. . The Captain's reception that evening was held in the Anchors Aweigh Lounge. Since it was late August there were only about 100 children on the ship; more a sedate crowd with a good mixture of Italian, British, North Americans and other countries. Our first port was Mykonos. The Legend was suppose to tender but at the last minute our Captain was able to get a berth so we docked around 12:30 which was ahead of schedule. We went on the Tour of Delos which entailed a half hour ferry ride to the island of Delos. Delos is an interesting ruin; the island was once the center of ancient religious and commercial life; considered a significant sacred site and the birthplace of Apollo. Small museum which holds original lions of Delos was closed the day we were there. Tour was about 4 1/2 hours; the sea was rough (4-6' swells); very hot, windy day; glad we did it. After returning to Mykonos, we stopped for a quick bite at taverna right across from the beach then strolled through the wonderful, whimsical, winding streets with cute little shops, restaurants, flowers and bright white buildings with bright blue trim. The sun was setting as we walked back along the waterfront to get the shuttle back to the ship. Since our time in Mykonos extended beyond normal dining hours we ate in the Windjammer that evening. The normal shuttle bus fee of $8.00 was included in our tour cost of $56.00 each. Next port was Kusadasi, Turkey. We had pre-booked with Ekol Tours and were met at the pier by our guide and a driver. It was a beautiful, hot day and since it was Sunday the streets weren't crowded. Our tour included the Temple of Artemis and Ephesus. Our guide Amman was terrific and provided lots of insight to the life both past and current in Turkey. The Temple of Artemis is one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World; some of the columns are still standing and restoration work is on-going. Ephesus is a huge ancient site built by Alexander the Great. There is a lot to see here and pre-reading was beneficial; St. Paul preached in the theatre, the library held over 12,000 scrolls, the city contain running water and sewer pipe systems, very civilized. Walking is over cobblestones and uneven surfaces and there is not much shade until near the end of the site. There are the usual shops at the end of the tour but we did not browse as we were pretty warm and tired. Although our guide wanted to take us to visit a carpet factory we opted to return to the pier. The drive is absolutely lovely. At the Pier area there are shops, restaurants including a Burger King and a Starbucks, we sat at a lovely waterfront bar and enjoyed an icy cold Efes beer and the view of Pigeon Island. We really enjoyed the tour which cost $100 US. and what we saw of Kusadasi. Rhodes was our next port of call. Again a lovely, hot day. The ship is docked a few minutes walk away from the main gate to the Old Town of Rhodes. Our views sailing into the port were amazing and included the Fort which was the site of another ancient wonder - Colossus of Rhodes. Old Town is wonderful; a couple of main squares, tons of interesting shops, restaurants, bars, etc. and old buildings. Some of the streets are made of small rounded stones. We walked completely around the town and my DH climbed to the top of the Clock Tower where he took some terrific pictures of the whole town and even the Legend at the pier was easily visible. Shopkeepers were pleasant and helpful and prices were good. After touring the town my DH went back to the Legend to change into his bathing trunks and headed for the beach. There are two beaches near the Pier - the one to the left is about a 10 minute walk - the one to the right is 3 minutes away but swimming is prohibited. After I found the items I wanted to buy (cat eye bracelets, olive oil soaps, little dishes for serving sorbet, etc) I met up with my DH and we found a nice sidewalk cafe. A couple of our tablemates from the ship joined us for a "boot" of beer (glass shaped like a boot) and the owner of the bar treated us to some ouzo as well. Limassol, Cyprus was next on the itinerary. Another bright, hot day. Since we didn't have anything planned we took our time and got off the ship around 9:30. You must take the shuttle to/from town or a taxi. We got in line for the shuttle and the lady took our cabin number (the charge of $8.00 round trip pp is added to your Sea Pass). Very little to see on the drive to the old city; mostly industrial. Quite frankly the town was dismal. We walked to the castle where Richard the Lionheart was married, looked at an olive oil press being reconstructed, walked down St. Andrew's street and returned to the shuttle stop. All in all we spent 1 1/2 on shore. Many people felt the same way we did about Limassol and wished we could have called at a different port, e.g. Santorini. Next day was at sea. Passports had to be picked up; they all had been stamped for Egypt. We went to a lecture by Gregory Scott (Univ. of Wisconsin) on Alexandria -- excellent. Early the next morning the Legend docked at the Port of Alexandria, about 1,000 of the passengers were booked on tours. The Excursions team did a great job of co-ordination so things went very smoothly and we were on the road by 8:15. Bus was comfortable and well-air-conditioned; soft drinks and water were provided. During the 2 1/2 hr. ride to Cairo our guide gave a steady commentary about Alexandria and Cairo. As we drove through Alexandria we were struck by how poor the living conditions seemed to be. During the drive, the guide also showed us some Egyptian souvenirs we could order with our names or whatever we wanted on the item written in Arabic, e.g. jewelry (cartouches), tee shirts, etc. We ordered two tee shirts and a cartouche. The guide dropped off the order as we entered the city of Cairo; the items would be prepared during the day and ready for our departure. An armed guard accompanied us on the bus and the buses travelled in a convoy for safety. The guard accompanied us at every site as well. Shortly after entering the city of Cairo we could see the Pyramids in the distance. At the Plateau of Giza, the buses parked a short distance from the three Pyramids and we were free to walk around. This was a life-long dream for us and it did not disappoint. The Pyramids are amazingly large and it is mind-boggling to figure out how they were built; each stone in the Great Pyramid weighs 2 tons! (There are approximately 2 million stones in the three pyramids -- enough to build a wall around France 10' high and 1' thick!). We spent our time gazing, touching the pyramids and taking pictures. There were lots of aggressive vendors but a polite "no thank you" coupled with walking away avoiding eye contact worked fine for us. After about 40 minutes we reboarded the bus to head for higher elevation where we could see the pyramids together as well as the three Queen's tombs. After a short stop for photos we headed down to the valley area to the Sphinx. Again aggressive vendors but our guide kept us together and spent some time explaining about the Sphinx which is carved from limestone and serves as the guardian to the Great Pyramid. The Sphinx was much larger and longer than we had imagined. Although you cannot get close enough to touch the Sphinx, we were able to walk up to an area which serves as a viewing platform providing us the ability to see the full length of the Sphinx and appreciate how massive the sculpture is and how well it has withstood the ages. Next we headed to the east side of Cairo to the boat launch where we boarded the vessel for our Nile cruise. I opted not to eat because I was nervous about getting sick however my DH ate a bit of the lunch and was fine. While lunch was underway, I went up and out on the top deck where there were a few tables and some chairs. From this lovely spot I ate a granola bar and drank my water while looking at the sights. The trip on the Nile was terrific; it was a very hot day and the boat ride was cooler; given that Cairo is home to 20 Million people, it is interesting to look at the types of dwellings along the Nile. Largely the buildings along the city side of the Nile are tall apartment buildings, major hotels and commercial buildings; on the other side there are some single family homes and it looks very pleasant. Entertainment on the boat included a belly dancer and music. Perfect break from the heat of the day. After lunch we headed for the Alabaster Mosque of Mohammed Ali on the other side of the city. I should note that driving in Egypt is not for the faint of heart; along there are lines on the roads nobody seems to pay attention to them and vehicles just squeeze in. Some people on our tour had not bothered to follow the clothing guidelines which require women to cover as much skin as possible especially shoulders and arms so they were provided with cloaks to wear at the Mosque. We were not overly impressed with this part of the tour although the views of the city were amazing from this location. It was a very long, hot day and this part of the tour could have been dropped to make the time line more reasonable. Our last stop was at a little strip-mall were the pre-ordered items were ready for pick-up, Also at this stop we had a demonstration of papyrus paper being made which lasted about 10 - 15 minutes. At the end of the allotted time, all the passengers were back on the bus but our guide was mysterious absent. We figured she was working out her cut of the profits on the orders with the owners of the shop; 10 minutes later she boarded the bus without apology. Due to the large number of passengers on 12 hour + excursions, the dining room had flexible seating so after returning and freshening up we went to enjoy a late dinner in the dining room. All in all it was an incredible day and one which will live in our memories forever. The next day we enjoyed a relaxing day at sea; we attended Dr. Scott's lecture on Greek History, tried our luck in the casino and watched a movie in the theatre. The following morning we arrived at the Port of Piraeus (Athens); we got off the ship early so we could go to the Acropolis before it got too hot and too busy. A shuttle bus (free) took us to the main terminal area where lots of taxis where available. Although our research before the trip indicated that the taxi fare to the Acropolis would be about 8 - 10 Euros, the lowest price we were able to negotiate was 22 Euros. Since it was Saturday the traffic was light and we were at the parking area in about 30 minutes. After buying our tickets (which are also good at other sites) we starting our walk up and around the Acropolis. The day was clear and bright so the views were spectacular. We spent 2 1/2 hours looking at the ruins and the restoration work underway; there is so much to see: The Parthenon, Theatre of Dionysus, Temple of Athena Nike (victory), the Olive Tree, Theatre of Herodes Atticus, and more. The Parthenon was built with a slight curvature to compensate for the eyes so that it appears perfectly level and the columns perfectly straight. As we made our way down (lots of rocky surface to navigate) we were glad of our decision to go early because it was getting crowded. We headed towards the Plaka area and stopped at a lovely taverna for a snack and a Greek beer (Mythos). Later we toured the Ancient Forum/Agora where the Temple of the Winds is located (tickets from Acropolis used here) and then walked to the main shopping area before heading back to the ship. Tablemates who took the ship's tour did not have time in their itinerary to go into the Acropolis which was really too bad. The next day at sea we attended the Crown & Anchor Reception for Platinum & Diamond members; this was held in the Viking Crown lounge around 11:00am; lots of officers were on hand to meet and mingle which we thought was very nice. Champagne, mixed drinks, canapEs and lovely music made for an enjoyable reception. We also attended a lecture on Pompeii in readiness for our excursion in Naples. This was the day of the last formal as well as the Midnight Gala Buffet. During dinner we passed through the Straits of Messina and had wonderful views of the coastline. Early the following morning we arrived in Naples; tour buses and taxis were all waiting at the dock. From the ship as we approached Naples we could see Mount Vesuvius. We had booked the Pompeii excursion and shortly after 8:00 we were underway. The drive to Pompeii included a short stop at a Cameo Factory. The ruins of Pompeii are well-preserved given that everything had been almost instantly covered with 6 meters of ash and pumice and remained that way from 79 AD to the late 1800s. Our guide was excellent and the tour very interesting. We were able to tour one larger home as well as a brothel, the Amphitheater, Temple of Jove and Temple of Apollo. Again we were impressed with the high degree of sophistication the residents enjoyed in their homes and throughout the town; it must have been a wonderful place to live. After the tour we returned to the pier and from there we caught a shuttle bus to the main terminal (about a 10 minute walk). By following some of the crew from the Legend we were able to find one of the best places for pizza - Castel Nuovo Bar. Given that Naples is the birthplace of pizza it was the perfect thing to have for a leisurely lunch along with a cold Italian beer. After a quick stroll around the downtown area we walked back to the ship to rest and get some packing done. Early the next morning we arrived in Civitavecchia; the disembarkment process went smoothly and we were soon off the ship and connected with our luggage. All in all, the cruise portion of our trip went incredibly smoothly; the excursions were excellent and well worth the money; the on-board lecturer was a real bonus. The food was OK; the ship was very clean and generally the staff were excellent. The entertainment was OK. The Captain was wonderful and informative which really added to the experience. The trip back to Rome was smooth and we were soon at our hotel, the Hilton Cavalieri, which is located on one of the seven hills of Rome with outstanding views of the city as well as St. Peter's Basilica. We had booked using points and on arrival decided to spring for an upgrade to the Executive level. The upgrade included a room on the top floor, use of the spa facilities and pool lounge pads and towels as well as the executive lounge on the 7th floor with wonderful drinks, food and service. If you have the opportunity to stay there you would not be disappointed! We spent our time relaxing, walking around the nearby Piazza Medalogia D'Oro, and soaking up the views of Rome. Later the following afternoon we took a taxi to the Airport Hilton which we had pre-booked for 200 Euros and the following morning we boarded our United Flight to Washington/Ottawa. We made it safely home although one suitcase did get lost but was delivered to our home the following afternoon. Luckily this happened on the return flight. Although this was definitely the most expensive cruise we have ever taken, it was well-worth it and we are now planning on doing another cruise in the Mediterranean probably in 2009.

Legend of the Seas - Eastern Mediterranean

Legend of the Seas Cruise Review by tomko2

Trip Details
Our trip started on August 18th from Ottawa; we had booked First Class seats on United via Washington using points thus we had the use of United's International First Class lounges. The aircraft was a new Boeing 777 with first class "suites" with fully reclining seats that stretch 6'4". Service was excellent; lovely gourmet meals, Personal TVs, Pillows, quilt and amenities kit.
Arrived in Rome early on Sunday morning, Aug. 19th; we had pre-booked a limo service and the driver was waiting for us at the airport (transfer from airport to hotel; hotel to Port and return to hotel was 255 Euros). We stayed at the Jolly Vittorio Veneto for 4 nights pre-cruise. This hotel is a little tired but has a few rooms with private terraces and we had requested this when we booked. The terrace was amazing - 14'x 20' with a patio table and chairs; it faced Villa Borghese and was a wonderful place to sit, drink and relax. Prior to going to Rome we pre-booked tickets for the Colosseum, reserved a time-slot at Galleria Borghese and bought tickets for a guided tour of the Vatican. All of these worked out fabulously.
After checking in, we walked to Trevi Fountain, although relatively crowded we had no problems getting right next to the Fountain to take pictures, throw in our coins and just sit and admire it. The crowd actually made it easy to find someone to take pictures of us. After having a beer close by we walked to Piazza Minerva to see Bernini's elephant sculpture with it's smile and from the back the elephant's muscles are tensed and it's tail is swung to the left. It was sculptured as it if were defecating; with the rear pointed at the office of Father Domenica Paglia who was one of Bernini's main antagonists. We then strolled to the Pantheon, Rome's best preserved temple built in 125 AD. Then onto Piazzo Navona a site previously used for chariot racing. Unfortunately, the 4 giants representing the world's greatest rivers was being repaired. We still saw parts of it through open panels. We carried water bottles and the refilled them along the way at fountains which you will find throughout Rome. The prices in Rome for eating and drinking were much higher than we expected, e.g. 8 Euros for a beer near Trevi Fountain and the Vatican. Hotel prices are very high; we paid 200 Euros per night which included a nice buffet breakfast and VAT. Taxis were reasonable but you need to find the taxi stands as you cannot flag them down.
Day 2 we went to the Colosseum and by-passed all the line-ups; we easily found the ticket window for individuals with vouchers and headed into the Colosseum. We read quite a bit about the Colosseum before the trip so we could really appreciate the design and workmanship plus we bought a great book at the hotel which had pictures of the sites now and overlays to show what it was like originally. (Bought the same type of book for Pompeii). After a few hours at the Colosseum we walked through the Roman Forum and then sat near the sites and enjoyed a cold drink to rest and absorb the culture and beauty of it all.
Day 3 we walked to Galleria Borghese (10 minutes from our hotel); we bought our tickets and then went to the tour desk and paid 5 Euros each for a guided tour. You cannot take anything into the Galleria, e.g. cameras, backpacks, etc, these items must be checked. The tour was fabulous; sculptures by Bernini including his David, Apollo and Daphne and the Rape of Prosperina. Guide provided background info and details. Visitors admitted for two hours only. We were allowed into the private gardens which are not normally open to the public. Galleria Borghese is a must see. After a short rest back on our terrace, we headed to the Spanish Steps. There is a tunnel with escalators at the top of Via Veneto which goes to the Spanish Steps and is easy to navigate.
Day 4 we took a taxi to the Vatican and met our guide. Pre-booking this was a great decision. Tour was excellent, started at 8:30, general public was not allowed into the Museums until 10:00 (line-up already long at 8:00). Tour lasted 3 hours and we were shown the highlights, given the background and little known details, e.g. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel with both hands at the same time, darker colors with his right and lighter colors with his left. He left his fingerprints as his signature on the eyes of an angel. Over and over again our guide provided interesting insight into what we were seeing, e.g. Mosiac of fish, fruit, wheat and meat was an ancient menu although it looked like a painting it was actually tiny pieces of different colored marble (white - Italy, Green - Greece, Red - Spain and Yellows from Asia Minor). My DH and myself were able to appreciate the Museums, Sistine Chapel and Vatican much more than when we went on our own the first time (15 years ago). After the tour we walked along the Tiber River, crossed over the pedestrian bridge and went to the famous Caffe Greco and then enjoyed the best gelato we've ever had which we bought at a bar directly across from the Spanish Steps.
Day 5 we enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast at the hotel and packed. Our driver arrived on time at 10:30 and we headed for the Port. The trip took about an hour and a half. Embarking was easy and we were onboard the Legend by 12:00. The Legend is in good shape, very clean, staff are friendly and helpful. We enjoyed a quick lunch in the Windjammer (which unfortunately does not have the outside seating we enjoy on the Radiance class) it was 1:00 and our Cabin was ready. The cabin (Junior Suite 8084) was lovely; large sitting area with a sofa and two chairs plus glass coffee table; the entrance area has a wood floor and a cabinet where the ice bucket/tray were kept. The bathroom has a tub/shower. Tons of storage in this cabin. The balcony was huge with two lounge chairs, two regular chairs and a nice size table (not really high enough for dining but better than the really low tables). The cabin had recently undergone refurbishing and had new upholstery, carpet and drapes; the bedding and bed were also new. The only drawback to the cabin was the issue with soot on the balcony; you had to be careful to wipe down the chairs which were navy blue so hard to see the soot but it was apparent on the table. Because of the soot we always had to put a pair of crocs or something on our feet before going outside. Too bad because the balcony is an awesome size.
A message was on our telephone indicating that our Meet and Mingle would be held at 5:30 which caused confusion because the official time shown on the website was for the following day as a result a lot of people missed this gathering. Our little group had just a short time to say hello before we had to leave for early sitting but it was nice to put the faces to the names. Due to the mix-up a second M&M was arranged later in the cruise; it was not the best mainly because the two reps didn't seem to understand the concept of a M&M; one talked almost the whole time and the other gave us each a key chain, took our raffle tickets and never held a raffle. I spoke to her nicely about it the next day and she rather abruptly said "I gave you all a key chain"; so that was that.
The dining room is very nice and the music was lovely. We had a large table with three other couples; wonderful conversations; an terrific assistant waiter and Maitre'd and a so-so waiter. The food however was just OK, not as good as other RCI cruises. This was most notably with the beef which was not very tender. Salads and desserts were great. Crayfish was the substitute for lobster. Perhaps because it was a Med. cruise we were expecting more of the flavors of Italy and Greece and instead the menu followed the normal course expect for some side items in the Windjammer. There are no specialty restaurants on the Legend.
We love the style of the theatre and went to some of the shows which were average; we did see a couple of movies in the theatre which we enjoyed. One of the best things during sea days was a guest lecturer who provided wonderful insight to the various ruins we would be visiting. We skipped the Art Auctions and other activities. The casino was lovely; very spacious and wonderful staff. For the first time we saw a Solarium pool with the roof retracted; it moves over the mini-putt so you can't play when it is open. We didn't use the pools but saw there were plenty of chairs available and a pretty active Deck Patrol team at work.
The first day at sea we passed through the Straits of Messina; it was a beautiful day and seas were calm. Captain Carl Graucob was excellent in providing advance notice of the times we would be passing key locations. . The Captain's reception that evening was held in the Anchors Aweigh Lounge. Since it was late August there were only about 100 children on the ship; more a sedate crowd with a good mixture of Italian, British, North Americans and other countries.
Our first port was Mykonos. The Legend was suppose to tender but at the last minute our Captain was able to get a berth so we docked around 12:30 which was ahead of schedule. We went on the Tour of Delos which entailed a half hour ferry ride to the island of Delos. Delos is an interesting ruin; the island was once the center of ancient religious and commercial life; considered a significant sacred site and the birthplace of Apollo. Small museum which holds original lions of Delos was closed the day we were there. Tour was about 4 1/2 hours; the sea was rough (4-6' swells); very hot, windy day; glad we did it. After returning to Mykonos, we stopped for a quick bite at taverna right across from the beach then strolled through the wonderful, whimsical, winding streets with cute little shops, restaurants, flowers and bright white buildings with bright blue trim. The sun was setting as we walked back along the waterfront to get the shuttle back to the ship. Since our time in Mykonos extended beyond normal dining hours we ate in the Windjammer that evening. The normal shuttle bus fee of $8.00 was included in our tour cost of $56.00 each.
Next port was Kusadasi, Turkey. We had pre-booked with Ekol Tours and were met at the pier by our guide and a driver. It was a beautiful, hot day and since it was Sunday the streets weren't crowded. Our tour included the Temple of Artemis and Ephesus. Our guide Amman was terrific and provided lots of insight to the life both past and current in Turkey. The Temple of Artemis is one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World; some of the columns are still standing and restoration work is on-going. Ephesus is a huge ancient site built by Alexander the Great. There is a lot to see here and pre-reading was beneficial; St. Paul preached in the theatre, the library held over 12,000 scrolls, the city contain running water and sewer pipe systems, very civilized. Walking is over cobblestones and uneven surfaces and there is not much shade until near the end of the site. There are the usual shops at the end of the tour but we did not browse as we were pretty warm and tired. Although our guide wanted to take us to visit a carpet factory we opted to return to the pier. The drive is absolutely lovely. At the Pier area there are shops, restaurants including a Burger King and a Starbucks, we sat at a lovely waterfront bar and enjoyed an icy cold Efes beer and the view of Pigeon Island. We really enjoyed the tour which cost $100 US. and what we saw of Kusadasi.
Rhodes was our next port of call. Again a lovely, hot day. The ship is docked a few minutes walk away from the main gate to the Old Town of Rhodes. Our views sailing into the port were amazing and included the Fort which was the site of another ancient wonder - Colossus of Rhodes. Old Town is wonderful; a couple of main squares, tons of interesting shops, restaurants, bars, etc. and old buildings. Some of the streets are made of small rounded stones. We walked completely around the town and my DH climbed to the top of the Clock Tower where he took some terrific pictures of the whole town and even the Legend at the pier was easily visible. Shopkeepers were pleasant and helpful and prices were good. After touring the town my DH went back to the Legend to change into his bathing trunks and headed for the beach. There are two beaches near the Pier - the one to the left is about a 10 minute walk - the one to the right is 3 minutes away but swimming is prohibited. After I found the items I wanted to buy (cat eye bracelets, olive oil soaps, little dishes for serving sorbet, etc) I met up with my DH and we found a nice sidewalk cafe. A couple of our tablemates from the ship joined us for a "boot" of beer (glass shaped like a boot) and the owner of the bar treated us to some ouzo as well.
Limassol, Cyprus was next on the itinerary. Another bright, hot day. Since we didn't have anything planned we took our time and got off the ship around 9:30. You must take the shuttle to/from town or a taxi. We got in line for the shuttle and the lady took our cabin number (the charge of $8.00 round trip pp is added to your Sea Pass). Very little to see on the drive to the old city; mostly industrial. Quite frankly the town was dismal. We walked to the castle where Richard the Lionheart was married, looked at an olive oil press being reconstructed, walked down St. Andrew's street and returned to the shuttle stop. All in all we spent 1 1/2 on shore. Many people felt the same way we did about Limassol and wished we could have called at a different port, e.g. Santorini.
Next day was at sea. Passports had to be picked up; they all had been stamped for Egypt. We went to a lecture by Gregory Scott (Univ. of Wisconsin) on Alexandria -- excellent.
Early the next morning the Legend docked at the Port of Alexandria, about 1,000 of the passengers were booked on tours. The Excursions team did a great job of co-ordination so things went very smoothly and we were on the road by 8:15. Bus was comfortable and well-air-conditioned; soft drinks and water were provided. During the 2 1/2 hr. ride to Cairo our guide gave a steady commentary about Alexandria and Cairo. As we drove through Alexandria we were struck by how poor the living conditions seemed to be. During the drive, the guide also showed us some Egyptian souvenirs we could order with our names or whatever we wanted on the item written in Arabic, e.g. jewelry (cartouches), tee shirts, etc. We ordered two tee shirts and a cartouche. The guide dropped off the order as we entered the city of Cairo; the items would be prepared during the day and ready for our departure. An armed guard accompanied us on the bus and the buses travelled in a convoy for safety. The guard accompanied us at every site as well. Shortly after entering the city of Cairo we could see the Pyramids in the distance.
At the Plateau of Giza, the buses parked a short distance from the three Pyramids and we were free to walk around. This was a life-long dream for us and it did not disappoint. The Pyramids are amazingly large and it is mind-boggling to figure out how they were built; each stone in the Great Pyramid weighs 2 tons! (There are approximately 2 million stones in the three pyramids -- enough to build a wall around France 10' high and 1' thick!). We spent our time gazing, touching the pyramids and taking pictures. There were lots of aggressive vendors but a polite "no thank you" coupled with walking away avoiding eye contact worked fine for us. After about 40 minutes we reboarded the bus to head for higher elevation where we could see the pyramids together as well as the three Queen's tombs.
After a short stop for photos we headed down to the valley area to the Sphinx. Again aggressive vendors but our guide kept us together and spent some time explaining about the Sphinx which is carved from limestone and serves as the guardian to the Great Pyramid. The Sphinx was much larger and longer than we had imagined. Although you cannot get close enough to touch the Sphinx, we were able to walk up to an area which serves as a viewing platform providing us the ability to see the full length of the Sphinx and appreciate how massive the sculpture is and how well it has withstood the ages.
Next we headed to the east side of Cairo to the boat launch where we boarded the vessel for our Nile cruise. I opted not to eat because I was nervous about getting sick however my DH ate a bit of the lunch and was fine. While lunch was underway, I went up and out on the top deck where there were a few tables and some chairs. From this lovely spot I ate a granola bar and drank my water while looking at the sights. The trip on the Nile was terrific; it was a very hot day and the boat ride was cooler; given that Cairo is home to 20 Million people, it is interesting to look at the types of dwellings along the Nile. Largely the buildings along the city side of the Nile are tall apartment buildings, major hotels and commercial buildings; on the other side there are some single family homes and it looks very pleasant. Entertainment on the boat included a belly dancer and music. Perfect break from the heat of the day.
After lunch we headed for the Alabaster Mosque of Mohammed Ali on the other side of the city. I should note that driving in Egypt is not for the faint of heart; along there are lines on the roads nobody seems to pay attention to them and vehicles just squeeze in. Some people on our tour had not bothered to follow the clothing guidelines which require women to cover as much skin as possible especially shoulders and arms so they were provided with cloaks to wear at the Mosque. We were not overly impressed with this part of the tour although the views of the city were amazing from this location. It was a very long, hot day and this part of the tour could have been dropped to make the time line more reasonable.
Our last stop was at a little strip-mall were the pre-ordered items were ready for pick-up, Also at this stop we had a demonstration of papyrus paper being made which lasted about 10 - 15 minutes. At the end of the allotted time, all the passengers were back on the bus but our guide was mysterious absent. We figured she was working out her cut of the profits on the orders with the owners of the shop; 10 minutes later she boarded the bus without apology.
Due to the large number of passengers on 12 hour + excursions, the dining room had flexible seating so after returning and freshening up we went to enjoy a late dinner in the dining room. All in all it was an incredible day and one which will live in our memories forever.
The next day we enjoyed a relaxing day at sea; we attended Dr. Scott's lecture on Greek History, tried our luck in the casino and watched a movie in the theatre.
The following morning we arrived at the Port of Piraeus (Athens); we got off the ship early so we could go to the Acropolis before it got too hot and too busy. A shuttle bus (free) took us to the main terminal area where lots of taxis where available. Although our research before the trip indicated that the taxi fare to the Acropolis would be about 8 - 10 Euros, the lowest price we were able to negotiate was 22 Euros. Since it was Saturday the traffic was light and we were at the parking area in about 30 minutes. After buying our tickets (which are also good at other sites) we starting our walk up and around the Acropolis. The day was clear and bright so the views were spectacular. We spent 2 1/2 hours looking at the ruins and the restoration work underway; there is so much to see: The Parthenon, Theatre of Dionysus, Temple of Athena Nike (victory), the Olive Tree, Theatre of Herodes Atticus, and more. The Parthenon was built with a slight curvature to compensate for the eyes so that it appears perfectly level and the columns perfectly straight. As we made our way down (lots of rocky surface to navigate) we were glad of our decision to go early because it was getting crowded. We headed towards the Plaka area and stopped at a lovely taverna for a snack and a Greek beer (Mythos). Later we toured the Ancient Forum/Agora where the Temple of the Winds is located (tickets from Acropolis used here) and then walked to the main shopping area before heading back to the ship. Tablemates who took the ship's tour did not have time in their itinerary to go into the Acropolis which was really too bad.
The next day at sea we attended the Crown & Anchor Reception for Platinum & Diamond members; this was held in the Viking Crown lounge around 11:00am; lots of officers were on hand to meet and mingle which we thought was very nice. Champagne, mixed drinks, canapEs and lovely music made for an enjoyable reception. We also attended a lecture on Pompeii in readiness for our excursion in Naples. This was the day of the last formal as well as the Midnight Gala Buffet. During dinner we passed through the Straits of Messina and had wonderful views of the coastline.
Early the following morning we arrived in Naples; tour buses and taxis were all waiting at the dock. From the ship as we approached Naples we could see Mount Vesuvius. We had booked the Pompeii excursion and shortly after 8:00 we were underway. The drive to Pompeii included a short stop at a Cameo Factory. The ruins of Pompeii are well-preserved given that everything had been almost instantly covered with 6 meters of ash and pumice and remained that way from 79 AD to the late 1800s. Our guide was excellent and the tour very interesting. We were able to tour one larger home as well as a brothel, the Amphitheater, Temple of Jove and Temple of Apollo. Again we were impressed with the high degree of sophistication the residents enjoyed in their homes and throughout the town; it must have been a wonderful place to live. After the tour we returned to the pier and from there we caught a shuttle bus to the main terminal (about a 10 minute walk). By following some of the crew from the Legend we were able to find one of the best places for pizza - Castel Nuovo Bar. Given that Naples is the birthplace of pizza it was the perfect thing to have for a leisurely lunch along with a cold Italian beer. After a quick stroll around the downtown area we walked back to the ship to rest and get some packing done.
Early the next morning we arrived in Civitavecchia; the disembarkment process went smoothly and we were soon off the ship and connected with our luggage.
All in all, the cruise portion of our trip went incredibly smoothly; the excursions were excellent and well worth the money; the on-board lecturer was a real bonus. The food was OK; the ship was very clean and generally the staff were excellent. The entertainment was OK. The Captain was wonderful and informative which really added to the experience.
The trip back to Rome was smooth and we were soon at our hotel, the Hilton Cavalieri, which is located on one of the seven hills of Rome with outstanding views of the city as well as St. Peter's Basilica. We had booked using points and on arrival decided to spring for an upgrade to the Executive level. The upgrade included a room on the top floor, use of the spa facilities and pool lounge pads and towels as well as the executive lounge on the 7th floor with wonderful drinks, food and service. If you have the opportunity to stay there you would not be disappointed! We spent our time relaxing, walking around the nearby Piazza Medalogia D'Oro, and soaking up the views of Rome.
Later the following afternoon we took a taxi to the Airport Hilton which we had pre-booked for 200 Euros and the following morning we boarded our United Flight to Washington/Ottawa. We made it safely home although one suitcase did get lost but was delivered to our home the following afternoon. Luckily this happened on the return flight.
Although this was definitely the most expensive cruise we have ever taken, it was well-worth it and we are now planning on doing another cruise in the Mediterranean probably in 2009.
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